Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa
Today, both anorexia and bulimia are the most common eating disorders and affect almost 15 percent of American teenagers. Eating disorders are fifteen times more likely to occur in adolescent girls than adolescent boys. They can be fatal and thousands die from every year but this is one mental illness that can be beaten. Anorexia is increasing more rapidly in developed countries than in underdeveloped countries. Bulimia is becoming the more common type of eating disorder among teens. It is difficult to diagnose because many bulimics are deeply ashamed of their rituals and few share their problems with close friends (4). If these two eating disorders are becoming more and more widespread around the world and occurring in a certain age group, then is there a common chemical imbalance or erroneous thought process that leads to such behavior? If so, then how can these eating disorders be handled?
The distinct factor that separates anorexia nervosa from bulimia nervosa is the binging-vomiting/purging cycle and the role it serves in the maintenance of body weight for the sufferer (4). Bulimics are usually within normal weight range while anorexics are extremely underweight. The difference between anorexic and bulimic people are that bulimics can spend all day planning their next binge, while anorexics can spend all day thinking about what they can’t eat at their next meal. When recovering from the eating disorder those with anorexia work at valuing the accomplishments they’ve made, while those with bulimia work at gaining control of their lives (2).
Surveys show that people with anorexia tend to have high intelligence, and superior scholastic performance, but the two almost overwhelmingly consistent personality traits are those of perfectionism and obsessionality (4). Physical symptoms of anorexia result from the behavior of trying to achieve weight loss. Losing the insulated layer has consequences such as sensitivity to temperature, dry skin, brittle hair, vitamin deficiency, heart rate slows, and blood pressure falling due to the fact that the body maybe adjusting to the loss of energy intake (1).
This behavior has biochemical disturbances as well, which have more serious implications. The main disturbances are dehydration and changes in the levels of some electrolytes in the blood. Potassium and chloride fall causing the blood to become alkaline producing a metabolic alkalosis. Low levels of potassium and dehydration cause weakness and fatigue. Low body potassium and alkalosis can cause irregular heartbeat and alterations in the electro-cardiogram. (1)
An anorexics biggest fear is becoming overweight and continue to think they are overweight even after they become extremely thin, are very ill or near death. Often they will develop strange eating habits such as refusing to eat in front of other people. Sometimes the individuals will prepare big meals for others while refusing to eat any of it (5). The...